Building the circular economy ‘one brick at a time’

Circular economy – Bundle of Cardboard for Recycling

A transition to the circular economy is vital for all industries. The building products industry is one of the most important, due to the large amounts of materials used and levels of waste that can be created locally, during all phases from production to construction.

What is industrial ecology?

Industrial ecology is concerned with transforming the flow of materials from linear to closed-loop systems, allowing waste to become input for new processes and products. This concept is aligned with that of the ‘circular economy’, which seeks to maximise the productivity of resources such as materials, water and energy.

These two things are needed to make industrial ecology work:

  1. Resources data
  2. Expertise in innovation

When aligned with commercial drivers, the best projects both ‘save the planet’ and save the ‘bottom line’.

The building industry: a move to zero waste

Items such as bricks, gypsum board and windows are often manufactured domestically, partly because their bulky nature makes them hard to transport. This is good news for the circular economy, as it’s easier to manage supply chains and monitor adherence to voluntary producer responsibility schemes from a local standpoint.

We’re already seeing a more ‘circular’ future in the building products sector – many companies are committed to recycling their own site waste; others are dedicated to minimising waste creation in the first place, then improving the productivity of their resources over their lifetime.

Exciting examples of circular thinking

Globally, we’ve seen strong evidence of circular thinking from major international players:

  • A property developer’s site teams are now segregating compactable packaging waste (namely plastic and cardboard) to return to the supplier for temporary storage; once there is a bulk amount, the waste is collected by waste management companies and recycled.
  • A large DIY chain is currently transforming 1,000 product lines (of the 40,000 that they stock) into more ‘circular’ products.
  • A global carpet manufacturer is offering to take back and reprocess old carpet tiles for re-use.

Does your business want to join the circular economy?

Edge Environment has extensive experience working in the building products sector and its supply chains, both in Australia and internationally. With our knowledge of life cycle analysis, engagement, business case development and facilitation, we’re using innovation to help our clients transition to the circular economy.

Currently, we are fortunate to be funded by NSW Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to carry out a limited number of free on-site reviews for building products companies in NSW, in conjunction with our partners at the Building Products Innovation Council (BPIC).

If you work for a company in this sector and would like to be considered for a free waste review, or have any questions about this article, then please click here, or email

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